Cake pattern in depth

This post is designed to serve as a “Cake pattern for dummies” walkthrough, primarily aimed at devs new(ish) to Scala – but with at least some prior Java (or similar) experience.

The Cake pattern can be (loosly) considered as Scalas answer to dependency injection (DI), you can see a comparison between Java Spring and the Cake Pattern in Jan’s earlier blog post here. The basic application of DI and the Cake pattern solve the same thing: dependencies between components. There are subtle differences, but let’s discuss the mechanism of the Cake pattern rather than getting into the nitty gritty.


First off, I think a quick overview of traits is necessary considering the target audience. Traits are similar to interfaces in Java, the main difference though is that they can be partially implemented, like abstract classes. However, unlike abstract classes, multiple traits can be ‘mixed in’ to a Scala class, allowing for a form of multiple inheritance. A trait cannot itself be instantiated, instead the traits functionality is mixed in either when defining or using a class. The syntax of Scala can make it look like you’re instantiating a trait, but in fact it’s creating an anonymous class with the trait mixed in, for example take the following trait:

trait SimpleTrait {
  def addOne(x: Int): Int = {x+1}

We can instantiate this trait in two ways, the long hand way where we manually create a class and instantiate that:

class SimpleClass extends SimpleTrait
val addOne = new SimpleClass

Or the shorthand way where an anonymous class is implicitly created for us:

val addOne = new SimpleTrait{}

And on we go

We’re going to write a simple application for saving and retrieving User objects. So, first we need to define our repository. We’ll start off with the API definition, then move onto the implementation of this.

trait UserRepositoryComponent {
  def userLocator : UserLocator
  def userUpdater : UserUpdater
  trait UserLocator {
    def findAll: java.util.List[User]
  trait UserUpdater {
    def save(user: User)

Above we have a trait UserRepositoryComponent which is best described as a wrapper or container for all repository traits containing user related operations. Lets explain this line by line to make sure everything is clear:

  • def userLocator : UserLocator – This defines a userLocator function which returns an instantiated UserLocator (trait), giving us a way to access it. We could also use a val here which instantiates a UserLocator directly, but this would reduce the flexibility of our implementation. By using def we can provide different subtypes of the dependency (UserLocator) by mixing in different traits. Further more, the caller of the UserLocator would be aware of the actual type due to the use of self-type annotations (described soon!). Using a val instead would not allow this subtyping.
  • trait UserLocator{..} – This inner trait simply defines a function for retrieving a List of User objects. No implementation is yet provided.
  • The UserUpdater definitions work in exactly the same way as those of the UserLocator.

Right, so we’ve defined what we want our repository to do so I guess it’s time to implement it!

trait UserRepositoryJPAComponent extends UserRepositoryComponent {
  val em: EntityManager
  def userLocator = new UserLocatorJPA(em)
  def userUpdater = new UserUpdaterJPA(em)

  class UserLocatorJPA(val em: EntityManager) extends UserLocator {
    def findAll = em.createQuery("from User", classOf[User]).getResultList
  class UserUpdaterJPA(val em: EntityManager) extends UserUpdater {
    def save(user: User) { em.persist(user) }

This is fairly simple, but let’s walk through it step by step (half of it anyway, I’ll ignore the UserUpdater as it’s pretty much the same as the UserLocator stuff):

  • val em: EntityManager – This simply defines a constant, EntityManager. This val will be instantiated later when everything is tied up. As a result of using a val for this the value cannot change once assigned.
  • def userLocator = new UserLocatorJPA(em) – Although this looks like a variable/field definition, it’s actually the implementation of the function defined in the previous trait. This implementation accepts an EntityManager and returns an instantiated UserLocatorJPA.
  • class UserLocatorJPA(val em: EntityManager) extends UserLocator{..} – A tiny bit more complex, we’re defining a class which implements the UserLocator trait. This class requires a JPA EntityManager to perform the various database operations.

Abstracting away…

Next up we need to implement the service tier which will take advantage of the above repository. This will again consist of two traits, the first will define the interface and the second the implementation.

trait UserServiceComponent {
  def userService: UserService

  trait UserService {
    def findAll: java.util.List[User]
    def save(user: User)

This is very similar to the UserRepositoryComponent trait defined previously and so should be familiar. We’ll move straight on to implementing it:

trait DefaultUserServiceComponent extends UserServiceComponent {
  this: UserRepositoryComponent =>

  def userService = new DefaultUserService

  class DefaultUserService extends UserService {
    def findAll = userLocator.findAll

    def save(user: User) { User)

There are a couple of interesting things happening here so we’ll walk through this bit by bit:

  • this: UserRepositoryComponent => – This is the important bit and is called a self-type annotation, loosely speaking it means that this trait depends upon an implementation of the UserRepositoryComponent being injected. What this means is simple terms is that when we want to use/instantiate the DefaultUserServiceComponent, we need to use the with keyword and specify an implementation of the UserRepositoryComponent, which in this case would be  UserRepositoryJPAComponent. This will be shown when we wire the whole thing together in the next step.
  • Hopefully the rest of the code should be pretty clear, we’re simply defining a class which implements the UserServiceComponent and defines implementations for the two methods – simply delegating the calls to the two classes defined in the UserRepositoryComponent which we now have access to thanks to the self-type annotation.

Wiring everything up

Now we’ve got everything defined and implemented, we need a way of instantiating and obtaining access to the services. The way we do this is by defining a singleton object:

object ApplicationLive {
  val userServiceComponent = new DefaultUserServiceComponent with UserRepositoryJPAComponent {   
    val em = Persistence.createEntityManagerFactory("cake.pattern").
  val userService = userServiceComponent.userService

We first define and instantiate a UserServiceComponent, mixing in the appropriate repository implementation, as required by the self-type annotation described earlier. We then provide the UserRepositoryJPAComponent implementation for instantiating the EntityManager. Finally we define a userService val for accessing the service methods.

All that’s left is actually invoking the service methods, that can be done by placing the following code within your class:

val userService = ApplicationLive.userService

Simple as that!


To test these services we’re going to write a Specs2 integration specification:

class CakeTestSpecification extends Specification with Mockito {

  trait MockEntitManager {
    val em = mock[EntityManager]

    def expect(f: (EntityManager) => Any) {

  "findAll should use the EntityManager's typed queries" in {
    val query = mock[TypedQuery[User]]
    val users: java.util.List[User] = new ArrayList[User]()

    val userService = new DefaultUserServiceComponent
                        with UserRepositoryJPAComponent
                        with MockEntitManager
    userService.expect { em=>
      em.createQuery("from User", classOf[User]) returns query
      query.getResultList returns users

    userService.userService.findAll must_== users

What we’ve done here is mock out the EntityManager using a trait, whilst allowing the callee to pass a function to the trait to initialise the mock according to the specific requirements of the test. In our example this means mocking the createQuery.getResultList function to return an empty List. A similar pattern could be used for mocking out the whole repository or service traits. The implementation details of this test Specs2 specification are beyond the scope of this article, however it will hopefully give you a head start when writing your own tests.

Wrapping up

There you have it, you can find the complete code on my github page. Please post any suggestions/errors/possible improvements in the comments or tweet me @markglh


Real-World Scala: Dependency Injection (DI) by Jonas Bonér
Dependency Injection in Scala: Extending the Cake Pattern by Adam Warski
Scalable Component Abstractions by Martin Odersky

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11 Responses to Cake pattern in depth

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  6. Maks says:

    “… We could also use a val here which instantiates a UserLocator directly, but this would reduce the flexibility of our implementation. By using def we can provide different subtypes of the dependency (UserLocator) by mixing in different traits…”
    In what way this would reduce the flexibility? With vals we provide the implementation in impl Component in the same manner. I suppose the only difference would be in scope. With defs it’s like prototype scope and with vals – singletons(if talk in terms of spring)

  7. Mark says:

    The scope would be one reason. In this case the UserLocator is supposed to be implementation specific so defining that in the top level trait wouldn’t make sense. We’re using a self-type annotation to force you to provide the implementation so using a def wouldn’t be congruent with this. As you say though it is possible to do this using a val.

  8. Ozo says:

    Wow. This just brilliantly written. I have seen other Cake-Pattern articles on Scala, but this one really stands out. Thanks.

  9. Mark says:

    Thanks, glad you found it useful!

  10. Xiao Zhang says:

    Useful tutorial. Thanks!

    I have a very basic question. In codes you have definition like this:
    `def userUpdater = new UserUpdaterJPA(em)` rather than use `val`. I guess the advantage is it’s easier to override the actual instance. But will this create a new instance everytime `userUpdater` is called?

  11. Jan Machacek says:

    Yes, it will–it really depends on the lifecycle of the dependency. If you want singleton*, use val; or, even better, lazy val. If you want prototype*, use def.

    * I’m borrowing the Spring Framework terminology here.

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